Now, this is not a political thing, talking about cutting through the haze of Chinese politics or some other hard-hitting article you’d find in some fancy journal or newspaper. I just mean that it’s really hazy here. Whether that’s because of the pollution or the fact that we’re close-ish to the sea, but the hills in the distance may, in fact, not exist. All I know is that they’re only occasionally there, more often than not half-hidden by haze.
Nope, this is just my blog. All about the adventure that is moving to China at the completely unexpected age of twenty-six. Unexpected, since it’s long past my gap year, and I haven’t just graduated, or recently graduated like all my co-adventurers seem to have done. I am the oldest by at least three years. I have real world job experience ‘n’ stuff. Not that it matters all that much. Very few of us speak all that much Chinese. When I say that, I mean I speak literally no Chinese. I can say thank you and hello. And that’s it. It’s kind of ridiculous how incapable you are when you don’t speak the language. Luckily, other people can and they’ve been a great help, but that’s a story for another day. Today is all about pre-China, Before China.
How do you shut down your life in just over two months? The answer is not easily and with many tears. I cried more in those two months than in the entire two years beforehand. It wasn’t so much saying goodbye to my friends and family, although that was hard; it was having them be so proud of me and it was the talking about how big and scary the move would be. It was the prospect of not seeing folks again for six months or a year or ever, when I’d been hanging out with them multiple times a week. They may be on the end of the phone, or a Facebook message away or whatever, but it wouldn’t be the same.
It was also the stress of it all. Putting notice on my job, moving out of my house, cancelling my bills, my subscriptions, and doing my teacher training. I spent an entire day calling various companies to cancel everything, waiting to talk to people so I could do so. It’s not so easy online cancelling stuff, because the companies always want to know why you want to stop their services. Pro-tip: telling people that you’re moving to China is a good way of stopping them from asking you to renew their services with a better deal.
The teacher training was also an added stress. It was 120 hours and I was asked to get it done by the time I left the UK. No biggie. It was only ten twelve-hour days. Except that learning is hard. And ridiculously tiring. I couldn’t work all day like that. I worked for a few hours. Then I would lose all semblance of concentration and just do nothing for a while. I practised a lot of procrastination. I procrastinated by stressing over how much I had to do. I had to do it around visiting my family and having them visit me. I had to do it around packing up my house. I had to do it around doctor’s appointments, vaccinations, time to purchase things I needed, like contact lenses.
Then was the flight itself. I hadn’t thought about it much, just that it was long, and that I had booked the particular one requested. I finished everything two days before I had to fly. I repacked my suitcase the day before, its weight limit being way over both the first and the second time, and not because of the clothes I was taking. We couldn’t find anything more to reduce the weight, so we resolved to pay the surcharges if necessary (it wasn’t, despite being three kilogrammes over the limit). It was then that I started thinking about the changeover in Helsinki. An airport I had never been to. While I have flown many a time solo, this was my first time solo with a layover.
It was surprisingly easy. I didn’t even need to do anything but have my boarding cards. My suitcase was transferred without me. The mild panic that it wouldn’t be didn’t leave until I picked it up from the baggage carousel after the interminable wait to get through customs in Hong Kong. After that it was plain sailing, if an incredibly long day at the same time. By the end of it, it turned out I’d slept less than 3 hours in approximately 34. It was a lot of standing around and waiting. Waiting for our visas to be issued. Waiting for our bank accounts to be opened. Waiting for our sim cards to be set up and issued. As there was seven of us, everything took longer than usual. The only thing that seemed to go quickly was the incredibly detailed medical checks. I had my first ultrasound (my non-existent baby is fine – thanks for asking), I peed ultra-dehydrated pee into a cup, I had a thing pointed at me (apparently it checked my temperature) from three feet away, I had suction cups attached to my under-boobs (supposedly for an ECG), I had an eye test (while wearing my glasses as I couldn’t see any of the board without them),I had an x-ray of my lungs (they weren’t broken thank goodness) I had blood drawn, I sold my soul. I never received the results, but since I’m still here, I imagine that I’m not carrying some deadly disease, and that I am in fact healthy.
After that, it was dinner, failing to use chopsticks, and being introduced to our flat. I got the en-suite, after quite a long time of negotiations between us, and we basically went straight to bed, still somewhat unable to believe that I was actually moving in here, to China. It wasn’t that I was coming to China, that had sunk in, it was that I was now living in China. And even after two weeks of being here, I still can’t quite believe it. That this is my house for the next year. That this is my life now.